First Day Presentation Explores George Fox’s ‘Miracles’

A reconstructed catalog of miracles Quaker founder George Fox performed could be just the thing to inspire a new generation of Friends, Michele Lise Tarter said during First Day School in September.

“We think of George Fox as the prophet, a man preaching and calling truth to power, writing prolifically” Tarter said. “We don’t really think of him as a healer.”

But in fact, Tarter said, Fox healed hundreds, if not thousands of people over the course of his lifetime.

In the 17th century, Tarter explained, miracles were commonly accepted as a part of life. And when Fox visited a town or village, people knew he was coming and sought him out for hands-on healing of conditions from kidney stones to insanity to a neck broken by a fall from a horse.

“He was almost in the footsteps of Jesus,” said Tarter, a professor of English at The College of New Jersey who studies Quakers and other non-conformist groups.

What made Fox and other early Quakers seem radical was the insistence that healing powers were available to anyone who lived close to God, Tarter said.

“Quakers believed that when spirit poured onto flesh, when you’re open to God and living close to God, you are filled with the spirit of Christ, and every cell in your body will radiate that inward light,” she said. “That’s when everything is possible in the universe: you are the living Christ. To others, that was blasphemy.”

Fox’s book of miracles was not printed during his lifetime because the backlash against Quakers was so strong that Friends self-censored and avoided publishing texts that would fuel critics who called them witches and devils.

In 1923, historian Henry Cadbury compiled a catalog of 176 of miracles by Fox that had been recorded in various places. Cambridge University Press published Cadbury’s collection, “George Fox’s ‘Book of Miracles’” in 1948 and in 1973, after which it went out of print. The book was republished in 2000 by Quakers United In Print.

Today, Tarter said, the backlash against Quakers has eroded, giving Fox’s miracles the potential to inspire a new generation.

“I see a willingness and openness to go back to our spiritual roots,” she said. “Can we revive that spirit that literally moved mountains? Are we ready for that promise and hope? I think this is one of the ways in.”

Watch a video of the presentation.

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